Im not Hasidic, but an afternoon in Williamsburg deepened my appreciation of Sukkot – Forward

Posted By on October 17, 2022

A Sukkot fair in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Oct. 13, 2022. Photo by Rina Shamilov

By Rina ShamilovOctober 14, 2022

Ive always loved dancing in the rain, which is why Sukkot is one of my favorite holidays. I dont think Ive ever experienced a clear-skied Sukkot. So on Thursday, as the raindrops began pooling on my windowsill, I took a drive through Brooklyn, looking for a place to dance, or maybe just to appreciate the fall showers. I eventually found myself in Williamsburg, a hub of Hasidic Jewish life.

Even as the rain poured down, one blocked-off street was vibrant and alive. Families and their children crowded into a makeshift fair, complete with rides and food stands. Mothers dressed in colorful clothes, in seeming defiance of the gray of the sky, and chattered in Yiddish. It reminded me of what I love about Sukkot, how it embodies the spirit of community and family. But the scene also shocked me for its diversity.

Because I am not Hasidic, I initially felt a bit out of place. I had envisioned the Hasidic community, thanks to their depiction in popular media, as insular and unwelcoming. But I did not feel like an outsider at the fair. I felt invited.

And I was hardly the only non-Hasidic person enjoying the festivities. African American and Hispanic children none wearing Hasidic garb also found Sukkot joy in the afternoon rain. They raced toward the rides, laughing together as parents cheerily waved them on, pleased to have found a fun after-school diversion.

The scene felt serene and meaningful. People enjoyed themselves in the moment. When I asked a young Hasidic mother about Sukkot, she remarked that Chol Hamoed, the intermediate days of the seven-day holiday, was important because it meant she got to spend quality time with her entire family. She said what I was thinking, that everyone seemed welcome, not just Jews. The two of us stood there for a moment, smiling together.

While one woman implied that the African American and Latino children were taking advantage of the fairs openness, her view did not seem to be held by many.

I still cherish Sukkot, but after my visit to Williamsburg, even more deeply than before. I did not imagine that a few hours there would show me that the warmth I have always felt on the holiday could deepen, when widely and generously shared.

Rina Shamilov is a student at Yeshiva University, interning at the Forward this summer. Follow her on Instagram @rins_cs or email her at [emailprotected]

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Im not Hasidic, but an afternoon in Williamsburg deepened my appreciation of Sukkot - Forward

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